Acts 26–Pressing on toward the Mark

Paul continued upon his journey toward Rome. This day Paul stood before regional leadership of Festus and Agrippa.  He was to defend his behavior transforming from being the former Jewish enforcer to becoming the proponent of changing the world for Christ.  Agrippa had listened to Paul before but, now the Roman leader Festus heard Paul speak of his transformation.  At the end of the day, not much was different.  


Remembering that Paul had a single purpose is critical.  He was not out to win his freedom.  He was out to reach Rome and change the World for Christ.  Festus called Him crazy.  Why would such a gifted scholar waste his time giving a simple testimony of how Christ changed his Life? Paul was clear–I am not crazy, I am simply telling How God changed me.  Festus responded by asking if He thought he could so quickly convert him.  Paul smiled and replied he was not concerned about when he was converted–JUST THAT he was converted. 

 
Then Festus made the golden statement–If he had not asked to see Caesar, He would be free to go! Point was that he did ask, and as such, to Caesar Paul would go.  God’s plan executed with precision.  Paul said in Philippians that the Philippians did not need to be worried about his imprisonment in Rome.  Because Paul was in chains it had become clear throughout the entire Praetorian guard and everyone else that he was in chains for Christ.  One can only imagine the number of instances that Paul gave the testimony he spoke to Festus.


In the charge of the light brigade, Tennyson writes, “Ours is not to reason why, ours is just to do or die!” As warriors for Christ, We, like Paul, must charge forward and face the enemy no matter the cost.  If we will, he will lose, and we will make a difference in the lives of our family and our community.  We made be called crazy, fanatical, or even criminal; but truth is we cannot help but to share the difference Christ has made in our lives.


God Bless You


“I too was convinced that I ought to do all that was possible to oppose the name of Jesus of Nazareth. 10 And that is just what I did in Jerusalem. On the authority of the chief priests, I put many of the Lord’s people in prison, and when they were put to death, I cast my vote against them. 11 Many a time I went from one synagogue to another to have them punished, and I tried to force them to blaspheme. I was so obsessed with persecuting them that I even hunted them down in foreign cities.

12 “On one of these journeys I was going to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests. 13 About noon, King Agrippa, as I was on the road, I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, blazing around me and my companions. 14 We all fell to the ground, and I heard a voice saying to me in Aramaic,[a] ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’

15 “Then I asked, ‘Who are you, Lord?’

“ ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,’ the Lord replied. 16 ‘Now get up and stand on your feet. I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen and will see of me. 17 I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them 18 to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’

19 “So then, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the vision from heaven. 20 First to those in Damascus, then to those in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and then to the Gentiles, I preached that they should repent and turn to God and demonstrate their repentance by their deeds. 21 That is why some Jews seized me in the temple courts and tried to kill me. 22 But God has helped me to this very day; so, I stand here and testify to small and great alike. I am saying nothing beyond what the prophets and Moses said would happen— 23 that the Messiah would suffer and, as the first to rise from the dead, would bring the message of light to his own people and to the Gentiles.”

24 At this point Festus interrupted Paul’s defense. “You are out of your mind, Paul!” he shouted. “Your great learning is driving you insane.”

25 “I am not insane, most excellent Festus,” Paul replied. “What I am saying is true and reasonable. 26 The king is familiar with these things, and I can speak freely to him. I am convinced that none of this has escaped his notice, because it was not done in a corner. 27 King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know you do.”

28 Then Agrippa said to Paul, “Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?”

29 Paul replied, “Short time or long—I pray to God that not only you but all who are listening to me today may become what I am, except for these chains.”

30 The king rose, and with him the governor and Bernice and those sitting with them. 31 After they left the room, they began saying to one another, “This man is not doing anything that deserves death or imprisonment.”

32 Agrippa said to Festus, “This man could have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar.”

Acts 19 Part 1–Paul at Ephesus

Paul moved on from Corinth and ended up in Ephesus.  When He arrived in Ephesus he met up with some disciples.  They repented and accepted Christ, but only was baptised for repentence. Paul laid hands on the disciples and they received the Holy Spirit. They immediately spoke in tongues and prophecied.  Paul continued his ministry and grew the church in Ephesus.  He had an amazing ministry and even healed people by touching handkerchiefs and aprons and sending them out.  It was great two year ministry and provided great growth and stability for the church and region.

 How important did the Church become? Well Timothy became the pastor for a time. Then the Apostle John became the pastor for a time and was finally exiled to the island of Patmos where he wrote Revelations.  Interestingly, the first church John reviewed in revelations was the Church in Ephesus.  That church was known as a great church that did great things.  John told them that they had simply lost its first love. 

Ephesus was significant in the group of churches.  The Ephesians taught us that it is not what we accomplish that makes us a Christian; it is our faith that redeems us.  Our acts and traditions do not improve our standing with God, we simply need to trust and love the Lord with our hearts.  It is also Paul’s letter to the Ephesians that reminds us that “It is by faith we are saved through faith, and not of ourselves.  It is a gift from God not of works lest anyone should boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9.  The Church at Ephesus became a central church in the growth of the faith.  We see it was started because Paul continued his journey as God led Him.


God Bless You


While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples and asked them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when[a] you believed?”

They answered, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.”

So Paul asked, “Then what baptism did you receive?”

“John’s baptism,” they replied.

Paul said, “John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus.” On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues[b] and prophesied. There were about twelve men in all.

Paul entered the synagogue and spoke boldly there for three months, arguing persuasively about the kingdom of God. But some of them became obstinate; they refused to believe and publicly maligned the Way. So Paul left them. He took the disciples with him and had discussions daily in the lecture hall of Tyrannus. 10 This went on for two years, so that all the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord.

11 God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, 12 so that even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick, and their illnesses were cured and the evil spirits left them.

Acts 9 Part 1–Saul’s Conversion

Saul was also on a roll.  He was focused upon stamping out “The Way”, the popular name for the early church. Saul attacked the church with a vengeance, jailing, killing, and decimating the believers throughout Jerusalem.  He heard the church was growing in Damascus, so with the blessing of the Jewish leadership, He set out with a band of enforcers to wreak havoc in that community as well.

Saul had his plan, he had written permission from the Jewish Council, but Paul had no idea what he was about to encounter–Jesus! On the road, Jesus stopped Paul with a bright light from Heaven.  The band of people that were with Paul heard the voice but could see nothing. Paul, however, came face to face with Jesus.  In that moment, Saul was changed.  Paul had been intent on vindicating God from this cheap imposter–then, Paul met Jesus. He saw Jesus was no impostor–He was God! Paul’s life purpose to Help God out had been the opposite.  He was attacking God’s chosen! Paul now faced the reality that he had been the sworn enemy of the very God he set out to avenge.

The meeting was dramatic and left Paul blind and completely changed.  As his troop took him into Damascus, neither Paul nor anyone else had any notion on what would happen next.  Suffice it to say that God was about to change the Jewish poster boy into the most prolific evangelist in church history.  As usual, God decided to take the least likely candidate for a job and do exceedingly, abundantly, more than anyone could hope or believe.

That is how our Lord works.  He takes those the world would not expect and uses them to change lives and build His kingdom.  When He does, the result is dramatic.  What is more, He is glorified in the process.  There is never a doubt that our Lord’s hand was in the plan.  That is why we must always be ready to seek God’s plan and humbly follow.  God will always take our humility and submission and turn it into amazing, miraculous impact on the world around us.  We simply must remain available and teachable.

God Bless You


But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men, or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him. And falling to the ground, he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one. Saul rose from the ground, and although his eyes were opened, he saw nothing. So, they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. And for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.

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